HONOLULU (KHON2) — Mauna Kea kia’i are given one week to clear access to the Mauna or face removal after Governor David Ige announces the TMT project will be temporarily put on hold. The TMT international observatory is said they are not moving forward with the controversial project for now to assist with efforts to reopen Mauna Kea to the public.
“We have been informed that the Thirty Meter Telescope will not be proceeding with construction at this time. As you all know, we are in the holidays so we made the decision that we will be withdrawing our personnel so that they can enjoy the holidays with everyone else,” Governor David Ige said during a news conference.
KHON: “Can you explain why? In addition to it being the holidays there must be more of a reason.”
“I think they were looking at all of the resources that are currently on Mauna Kea and trying to make prudent decisions,” Ige said.
Ige’s decision to pull resources from Mauna Kea comes more than five months after the 1.4 billion dollar Thirty Meter telescope was scheduled to begin construction. The project has been delayed due to ongoing demonstrations at the base of the Mauna preventing access to the summit.
To date, the State and Hawaii County have spent more than $13 million dollars on resources surrounding the Mauna kea conflict.
When asked whether the decision was being made to pull law enforcement over the cost, Ige said that was one of the things they took into consideration.
“Certainly the cost is an issue but I think it’s more about the notion that we are in the holiday season and we are making plans for how to provide ssafe access to the construction sites we were informed that they would not be moving on construction at this point in timeso we thought it would be prudent that we give all law enforcement…the opportunity to scale back.”
Thursday, Gordon Squires, TMT VP External Relations said they are hoping to create space for more discussions to take place but he would say construction was suspended.
“I wouldn’t charazterize that we have made a decision to suspend constructino–we haven’t been able to start csonstruction since we were first scheduled to do so in July.
Instead he said they want to allow discussions concerning Hawaiian issues to take place.
“Because of these larger conversations that are going on we have been creating some space for those conversations to continue and hope for real good to come out for native Hawaiians and all of Hawaii,” Squires said.
Squires said they also want to see Mauna Kea once again open to the public.
“We are committed, as I think everyone in Hawaii is, that access to Mauna Kea is given in a safe, respectful, sustainable manner and that needs to be demonstrated by the State and Hawaii county.”
Without giving a timeline, he said they do plan to move forward with TMT on the Mauna.
“People ask me all the time, when is this too much? And I don’t have an answer for that. We just remain committed at this time in moving forward and trying to find a way for real good to come out of all this,” Squires said.
Mauna Kea kia’i Andre Perez said the news seemed disengenuous.
“TMT is not leaving Hawaii. They’re still committed…and the governor has expressed to TMT the state will be there when they are ready to start construction. That doesn’t give us a whole lot of incentive to clear anything,” Perez said.
Perez said Thursday’s announcement doesn’t change anything.
During Ige’s news conference even he admitted the removal of law enforcement wasn’t likely to change things.
“I don’t believe it changes anything per say… We’ve been up on the mountain in response to Hawaii county police to provide support…We did inform the project that at the point where they are prepared to start construction we would be prepared to provide safe and peaceful access to the site,” Ige said.
According to Perez, the kia’i will remain committed to proventing the desecration of Mauna Kea.
Perez said law enforcement didn’t ask them to leave, they gave them an ultimatum.
“Because they’re demobilizing, they’re demanding we move off of Mauna Kea Access Road–meaning the kupuna tent needs to be removed. They gave us a deadline of December 26th, the day after Christmas. If we don’t move–open up Mauna Kea Access Road– then they are going to come and, they used the word heavy handed. They’re going to come heavy handed with enforcement and they going to clear all the tents from the highway, ” Perez explained.
Perez said there are those who plan to stay on the Mauna. He said the kia’i were still discussing whether they would remove the structures blocking Mauna Kea Access Road.
Mayor Harry Kims said the Hawaii County police plan to leave Mauna Kea by 3:30P.M. Friday.
In the meantime, Mayor Kim said that the County government is working to establish communication with the kia‘i to address the current situation, with the intent of restoring the flow of traffic and public access to Maunakea Road to all of the community.
“It is my goal that this will be the beginning of a true meeting with all parties to see how this issue can be resolved, in finding a way forward,” Mayor Kim said.
No one was able to confirm how long TIO plans to put a hold on their efforts to begin construction on the project.
Squires said the permit that allows them to begin construction on Mauna Kea was extended and runs through September 2021.